Wednesday, May 31, 2006

some comments on the "first" beer sommelier (part 3/5 in my "NY Times Inspires" series; parts 4 and 5 will not be mentioned as parts of the series... were parts 1 and 2 similarly not parts of the series).

I read an article in the NY Times the other day about the so-called "first" beer sommelier in New York. Fine. In New York. But people who know a thing or two about beer have been employed in restaurants and bars for a long time. I guess it is a good thing though. Maybe some day I'll drop out of academia and become a beer sommelier. Anyway, Mr. Baylor, the Potable Curmudgeon himself, has some good commentary on the short piece here.

Then today, I discover that a keen reader of this very blog, whose identity I know not (why don't you people say who you are when you leave comments? And Glen, I'm not talking about you), has discovered yet another piece in the "Gray Lady" about the very same restaurant where the first beer sommelier began his trendsetting period of food and beverage service employment.

I have just a couple things to say about these article.

(1) I agree with Mr. Baylor that calling this guy a beer sommelier might be kind of strange. Why don't they call him the beer director? I also agree that trying to imbue beer culture with wine-snobbyness is a mistake. I've become more and more sympathetic to the claim that beer should not be treated like "fine wine". Beer is by the people for the people and oftentimes it just won't be comparable to a fine wine. But that is ok. It's a different kind of beverage. One that I like much better than wine.

(2) I think people often use the term "clove" to describe any sort of phenolic character. German Hefeweizen yeast are the archetypal clove-phenol producing strain, but many Belgian strains will produce other phenols that range from "clove-esque" all the way to harshly medicinal. I usually just like to say something like "spicy fermentation character" unless something obvious is sticking out.

(3) I love how this guy's favorite beer is Deus. I don't think that's a coincidence. I also don't think it's a coincidence that the author of the longer restaurant review tried Deus, the beer sommelier surely talked him into it. They probably charge 50$(actually they charge 44$) a bottle for this stuff and it just isn't that great in my opinion. Definitely not worth that much money. It is over spiced and while the super duper high carbonation is cool and the method champenoise etc. etc., it just makes for an overly dry, prickly, spicy beer. But you can't blame them. That beer is so dressed up with the champagne connection and the weird bottle, it was made to make money. So good for them I guess.

(4) And what is up with Leffe in NYC? Leffe is kind of like the Red Hook of Belgium. It is an OK mass produced sort-of-craft-beer. Leffe is ok, but it certainly wouldn't be on my menu if I had a good beer bar. But I see Leffe everywhere in NYC. We went to this cool little Belgian beer bar in the West Village (?) this past Christmas, Vol de Nuit I think it's called, where everything was Leffe this and Leffe that. Leffe is now owned by InBev, the largest brewing conglomerate in the world and is imported into the states by Labatt USA. Interestingly, InBev is who A-B purchased Rolling Rock from recently. Anyway, I think there is some distributor in NYC who is pushing Leffe.

(5) The food at this restaurant, Cafe d'Alsace, sounds excellent and I'm sure the beer list is very good as well, Leffe notwithstanding, and I can't wait to try it the next time I'm in the city.

(6) I'm not sure why the author of the longer piece says the following: "I don't think any other New York restaurant combines this many Pilseners with food this sturdy." I'm pretty sure there are actually lots of other restaurants in New York that combine more pilsners with sturdy food. Belgium isn't exactly famous for their pils unless you're talking about Stella Artois, but that just happens to be brewed there now, definately not a real Belgian beer. Every place that serves Miller lite, Coors light, Bud light etc. serves pilsners. Also, we get this about Duvel, for christ's sake: "Why not, on occasion, let a lager carry the load?" Duvel is certainly not a lager. And I bet he pronounces it Doo-vell. It is actually pronounced Do-vul. That is one of my pet peeves. If you ever have any doubts about how to pronounce something associated with Belgian beer, go to this website to learn how to say it as an American, a French person, and a Flemish person. It rules.

That is all. Over and out to doubt I spout a lout aloud through the gap in my teeth.

I haven't flossed in weeks.

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